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The Success of the 5th Xiangshan Forum

Dec 22 , 2014
  • Zhao Weibin

    Researcher, PLA Academy of Military Science

At the foot of the Xiangshan (fragrant hill), northwest of Beijing, from November 20 to 22, the China Association for Military Science (CAMS) held the 5th Xiangshan Forum, attracting about 300 participants from 57 countries. Based on “Win-Win through Cooperation: Building an Asian Community of Shared Destiny”, the forum focused on the following five issues.

On the New Asian Security Concept and an Asian Community of Shared Destiny, most participants were very interested in the two concepts proposed by President Xi Jinping. Some suggested that Asia’s security needs strong political leadership and common strategic views (or an Asian dream), while China can make use of its capital and capability to build a community of common interests, where interested parties should share risks and responsibilities. Some pointed out that without open and constructive dialogues among Asia-Pacific countries, particularly between China and the US, the building of an Asian Community of Shared Destiny is a noble dream that cannot come true.

On the Asia-Pacific security situation, most participants agreed that tensions in the region have eased up, especially after the APEC meetings in Beijing. Positive signs included: China and the US signed two memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on establishing “a mutual reporting and trust mechanism on major military operations” and “a code of safe conduct on naval and air military encounters”; China and Japan reached a four-point consensus on principles and resumed maritime communication; and China has improved its relations with Vietnam and the Philippines. Nevertheless, the root causes for the tensions have not disappeared, which are US maintenance of global and regional hegemony, Japan’s pursuit of being a major political and military power, and China’s acceleration of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. As for the future, Chinese participants were generally optimistic, believing that the Asia-Pacific security situation is largely under control and the possibility of wars between China and Japan, the US, or other major powers, can be ruled out.

On the Asia-Pacific security architecture, most participants thought that existing mechanisms did not live up to regional expectations. For example, based on exclusive bilateral agreements, US alliances might render misgivings and antagonism; security dialogues centered on the ASEAN are loosely knitted and less authoritative; and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has limited members and covers limited subjects. At present, Asia needs an independent, inclusive, and multilateral institution, which can promote both economic and security cooperation, and conduct continuous and regular dialogues. However, it should not simply replace existing mechanisms, but seek to co-exist with them.

On the maritime security situation, some experts predicted that relevant countries would continue to unilaterally exploit the oil and natural gas resources and to strengthen the construction and control of the isles and islands. Further, ships and aircraft of relevant countries would likely confront and even collide with each other. Hence some participants proposed establishing confidence-building measures such as stopping quarrelling with each other on diplomatic positions; curbing domestic nationalism; hold expert-level dialogues on historical details and legal foundations; reserve marine resources and regulating fishery activities; setting up codes of conduct, not only among navies and air forces, but also among law-enforcement departments; deepen non-traditional security cooperation on search and rescue, disaster relief, counter piracy, and prevention of maritime pollution. Some experts suggested that China and South Korea should take advantage of good political and economic relations, and set an example for neighboring countries by settling the problems of overlapping air defense identification zones and demarcation of the Yellow Sea.

On counter-terrorism, most participants contended that the center of gravity of international terrorism has moved to Asia, South Asia in particular; victim countries have expanded from Muslim states to non-Muslim ones, to such countries as Indonesia, the Philippines and China; ISIS’s ambitions have endangered the security of Iraq, Syria, Russia, and even China; the influence of al-Qaeda has elevated from terrorist activities to mentalities; and after US and NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban might stage a comeback. Therefore, joint efforts should be made to correctly define terrorism in avoidance of double standards, sign legal agreements and join hands to fight against global terrorism, and combine political, economic, cultural, and social means with military methods to treat both the outward symptoms and root causes of terrorism. Several participants took note of the role of cyber technology in disseminating terrorism, recruiting new members, and organizing terrorist activities, and argued to take counter-measures. Besides, many experts were expecting China’s more contribution to counter-terrorism and reconstruction in Afghanistan after 2014.

The 5th Xiangshan Forum won wide praises from the participants, for it succeeded in providing a track-1.5 platform for regional security cooperation and dialogues. The results of the Xiangshan Forum will go beyond Asia to the world.

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